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HereHere LiesLies

HereHere LiesLies
HereHere LiesLies

The Collected Poems of



Here Lies

Here Lies The Collected Poems of ABELARDO DELGADO

The Collected Poems of



Here Lies

Here Lies The Collected Poems of ABELARDO DELGADO edited , with an introduction , by jarica

The Collected Poems of



edited, with an introduction, by jarica linn watts

foreword by arturo j. aldama

edited , with an introduction , by jarica linn watts foreword by arturo j . aldama

Arte Público Press Houston, Texas

Here Lies Lalo: The Collected Poems of Abelardo Delgado is made possible through grants from the City of Houston through the Houston Arts Alliance.

Recovering the past, creating the future

Arte Público Press University of Houston 452 Cullen Performance Hall Houston, Texas 77204-2004

Cover design by Pilar Espino Cover photo courtesy of Arte Público Press archives

Abelardo, 1931-2004. [Poems. English & Spanish. Selections] Here Lies Lalo : The Collected Poems of Abelardo Delgado / Edited, with an introduction, by Jarica Linn Watts; prefatory note by Dolores Huerta; foreword by Arturo J. Aldama. p. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-55885-694-3 (alk. paper) 1. Mexican Americans—Poetry. I. Watts, Jarica Linn. II. Title. PS3551.B3375A6 2011





PS3551.B3375A6 2011 2010054400 cm. 811 ʹ .54—dc22 CIP The paper used in this publication meets the

The paper used in this publication meets the requirements of the American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Materials, ANSI Z39.48-1984 .

© 2011 Abelardo “Lalo” Delgado Printed in the United States of America



















P refatory note by d olores h uerta


foreword by a rturo j. aldama


i ntroduction by jarica l inn watts




La Raza


La Huelga


La Tierra


El Macho


La Hembra La Causa El 16 de Septiembre El Inmigrante Poema Cactus Fruit El Compadre









César Chávez


El Barrio El Río Grande Narciso El Chisme The Majic Valley La Revolución








Mamá Lupe


La Guadalupana*



26 de Agosto


Un Telegrama Stupid America El Vendido The Chicano Manifesto





*Also published in Under the Skirt of Lady Justice.


Snow in Albuquerque




Why Am I Here?




Museum Piece




Twin Falls


Oh, Shit


La Secre


My Unborn Sons (Or Daughters)




The Inn of the Seven Arts

(Better Known as the Pittman’s)




Ya No


The Poet as a Mirror


Happy 200th Anniversary* (In Case We Get There)






Uanetl, Indio sin Regalo




From Los to Reno


Cream or Sugar?


Three Margaritas Later


Feliz Cumpleaños, Esposa Mía


From Albu to Tucson


Preguntas Pesadas


*Also published in Under the Skirt of Lady Justice.


Requiem for An Ex CAP Director No Tengo Papeles Anclas de Desunidad From Frisco to Fresno The Last Wow Wife La Barraca What Is Life? Scumble De Corpus a San Antonio The I.A. Alternative Ed De Harlingen a Corpus The Willing and Unwilling Victims Sixteen Those Temporary Labor Camp Blues De Macalitos a Harlingen The Poor Have Now a Voice:

Stereophonic at That The Group Wow Updated Prayers For Novochristians My Unborn Sons or Daughters Padre Island, Ten A.M. Bilingual State Leftovers En la Cantina Christian Mythology De San Vicente de las Ciénegas (Silver City) a Alburque At Steve’s Ambassador Parliamentary Procedure Desde Billings hasta Salt Lake

































From Garden City to Hays Madre La Violencia El Corrido de Ft. Lupton En Billings También De Los Angeles a Fresno La Ciudad del Cañón Friday 12-16-77










La Llorona Captando el Cuarto Canto Vo Space Age De Frisco a Boise Shssst Metz









More than fifty years ago, Living Life on His Own Terms Bring in the Lions Dallas/Ft. Worth to Denver Harmony in Diversity Mind Wonderings My Mother, Part I My Mother, Part II A Word It’s a Flip of the Coin Penitente Sabastian Michael Where? At Socorro High















Carta Abierta a España El Río Grande I El Río Grande II Madre ¿Por Qué? Qué Bochorno Cabezón Café con Besos Calaveras Él El Araña El Movimiento













Special thanks to Vince Cheng, Jim Allen and the Delgado family.

For my parents and Jessi Rose.

For Clint and my Saylor, whose scribbles dot every draft of this project.



farmworkers, Chicanos, Mexicanos in an irreverent, artful often humorous voice. His life’s experience in the Southwest covered the human landscape of social survival by the oppressed and their activism to make changes. He shines a clear poetic light to identify the specific issues that cause pain and discrimination by those that are unaware of how their actions hurt others. Lalo always leaves the reader with hope and love; by reading his poetry and shared wisdom one is not only educated but uplifted.


—Dolores Huerta


Abelardo Lalo Delgado Que en paz descanse


vibrancy of literary, performative and visual empowerment that went hand in hand with the Chicano movement for social justice, equal rights and struggles for farm worker, educational and political empowerment. Denver and Colorado serve as a nexus point of the Chicana and Chicano move- ment, where artists, activists, students, families and workers rose up and said ya basta to institutionalized practices that degrade the cultural pluracy of Chicanas and Chicanos and all those of Mexican descent in the United States. Lalo Delgado, having immigrated here from northern Mexico, felt first-hand the rule of Ango-centrism race and class oppression, segregation, poverty and discrimination based on language, skin color, national origin and cultural difference. Lalo, rather than allowing his inner voice to become humiliated and sterilized by the imposition of monolingual hegemonies, spoke back, wrote back and celebrated his borderland identity, and articu- lated his deep felt convictions in the power of solidarity and group struggle and the power of collective cultural dignidad. Miriam Bornstein-Somoza’s article, “Pedagogical Practices of Liberation in Abelardo ‘Lalo’ Delgado’s Movement Poetry,” 1 looks at Lalo’s poetic corpus of fourteen published works to argue that his poetic discourse contributes to an active pedagogy

1 See Miriam Bornstein-Somoza, “Pedagogical Practices of Liberation in Abelardo ‘Lalo’ Delgado’s Movement Poetry” Ed. Aldama, Facio, Maeda, Rabaka, Enduring Legacies of the Colorado Borderlands (Boulder: UP of Colorado, 2011). 327–345.



of oppressed Chicana/o peoples. Specifically, Bornstein-Somoza argues that in Delgado’s poetic discourse:

Chicanos/as become subjects of their particular historical moment as relations between dominant and marginalized or sub- altern communities are altered. He does not expect the dominant culture to authorize him since he authorizes himself in order to create a voice that gives meaning to the representative function of the word. (222)

In having Chicanas/os become subjects of their historic moment and agents of our language, Delgado takes seriously the artistic legacies of Mesoamerica, and enters in the Xochitl Cuicatl flor y canto (flower and song) traditions of the Aztec or Mexica past, bringing them into a het- eroglossic neocolonial present. His poetry reflects the indigeneity of Chi- canas and Chicanos, and honors the struggle for cultural and linguistic plu- ralities of the US and México borderlands. His impressive corpus of published work plays a central role to what poet and theorist Alfred Arteaga calls poetic language of the Chicana and Chicano community 2 :

Language itself, the very fabric of the poem, is significant in the delineation of the homeland and its people. Poetic language is par- ticularly to the task of myth, to envisioning a national origin, and to the tasks of defining a people, their place on the planet, and their future. (17)

On a personal note, when I was asked to write this foreword, I was deeply humbled and in awe of how one human being and his infectious struggle to have a voice has touched the lives of generations of people in all walks of life, from young children to elders. He is remembered as a gentle spirit who was driven by indomitable kindness and a militant respeto for the unique creative potential of every person he interacted with. He is remembered for being a selfless and truly organic intellectual, and a fighter for the creative and educational rights of a community that continues to stand against an entrenched and ongoing system of intentional disenfranchisement. Helen

2 See Alfred Arteaga, Chicano Poetics: Heterotexts and Hybridities (Cambridge UP, 1997). 17.


Arturo J. Aldama

Girón, a Chicano Studies professor at Denver Metro and longtime commu-

nity activist and close friend of Lalo’s for over 20 years, remembers his

charisma and community-building spirit:

worked for the United Farm Workers Union here in Denver for $5 a week.

Many times the picket lines were attacked by the

made me so fearful. However, when I watched Lalo speak or take on issues, and how to be courageous even in the darkest moments, it gave me the strength to continue on the picket lines and even face arrest.” The poem below written at Lalo’s funeral and public mourning cere- mony by another longtime compañero also gives testimony to Lalo whom he calls the “humble poet laureate de Aztlán” and the “grandfather to gen- erations of Chicano poets who dared to pick up the pen.”

as a young girl (23 or so) I

This always


Here lies Don Abelardo Delgado humble poet laureate de Aztlán a hero to those who till the soil trabajadores whose hands have become warped and decrypted making masa made of tierra for los ricos de América. Lalo freedom fighter for los de abajo grandfather to the generations of Chicano poets who dared to pick up the pen, crafting images de una vida dura pero también llena de esperanza.

Ramón del Castillo

Chair of Chicana and Chicano Studies, Metropolitan State College, Denver, CO

In conclusion: His physical body might be gone, his spirit has journeyed to Mictlán, yet the body of his poetic spirit lives on in the communal memory of la gente. Please read the following book, be inspired, challenged and mesmer- ized, and gain courage to fight for your creative truths.




from Chihuahua, Mexico, to El Paso, Texas. He was alone with his mother, and the year was 1943. As a Mexican student in an American school system that forbade him to speak the only language he knew, Delgado launched his first organized protest: he refused to stand for the singing of America’s national anthem, insisting, instead, that his classmates join him in singing the Himno Nacional Mexicano. One week later, his sixth-grade class was singing vivas to Mexico. His mother raised him in a public housing complex with 23 other families, and he stayed put just long enough to graduate from Bowie High School as Vice President of the Honor Society. He then worked with troubled and impoverished youth, and eventually found his way to the University of Texas at El Paso in 1962. From there, his story is legendary. There’s the part where, during his engagement, he sent his wife a poem—accompanied by a dollar bill—every day, for a few months: “with this, you buy a wedding dress,” 1 the inscription read every time. Or the part where he was recruited—by an Irishman, no less!—to lobby on behalf of Mexican migrant farm workers. The part where he gave César Chávez some unsolicited advice and later, after seeing Chávez lose forty-thousand dollars because of that very advice, recanted his recom- mendation: “Don’t listen to me anymore, Chávez. I’m crazy.” 2 But, for the story the history books will later tell, these small details matter not. For Lalo Delgado was decidedly important. After all, there is the part where he picked up a pen and began to write about the plight of Mexican Americans

1 Delgado, Abelardo. Interview with Lisa Olken of Rocky Mountain PBS Television. “La Raza de Colorado.” Rocky Mountain PBS Television, June 2005.

2 Ibid.



—and, in so doing, set the foundation for Chicano letters and literature. He wanted, he said, to use his words “as a platform to identify the hurt.” He want- ed to “preserve [his] culture.” 3 He wanted to inspire the movement—as he called it, “the vast movement for total change.” And in this regard, he was successful: upon his death in 2004, The New York Times characterized him as el abuelito, “one of the grandfathers of the Chicano literary renaissance,” and one of the most “vivid poets of the Chicano literary revival.” 4 Delgado’s vibrancy grew out of his repeated call for revolution. Above all, he believed that his Chicano brothers and sisters had experienced the most extreme of life’s injustices, and he wrote to urge them toward peaceful protest. In his poem “La Revolución,” Delgado writes of those who:

inspire revolutions, because in their desire to right wrongs there are no illusions, it is a real manly christian honest desire to put injustices here on earth to temporary fire.

Like the revolutionaries he marched beside and admired, Delgado’s poetry seeks to extinguish the myriad injustices he watched Mexican Americans endure. He infuses his writing with the same political perspective he brought to Congressional meetings and union rallies for migrant workers; and it is this impassioned voice that urges Chicanos to look beyond pover- ty, law-enforcement abuse, political oppression and drug-infested streets. Because he used his poetry to inspire positive change, he maintained that anyone desiring access to his poetry should be able to find it—and to not only find it, but to read it. And to not only read it, but to own it. Thus, he self-published 14 books of poetry under the rubric of Barrio Books, the first of which, Chicano: 25 Pieces of a Chicano Mind, sold for $1.50. Yet, there were always some who were unable to pay. Delgado told Lisa Olken of Rocky Mountain PBS Television about a particular gentleman who approached him following a public poetry reading. The man said, “Ay, amigo, I want to read your book, but I don’t have $2.00. Will you accept two food stamps?” Delgado laughingly recalls how he then framed those

3 Ibid.

4 Romero, Simón. “Lalo Delgado, 73, Vivid Poet of Chicano Literary Revival.” New York Times 30 Jul 2004, A16.


Jarica Linn Watts

two food stamps and hung them on the wall in his office—underneath a handwritten sign that read, “Poetry is Food.” 5 Certainly he wanted his books to be available to anyone willing to read them. And Barrio Books made that possible. Delgado’s poetry offers a unique blend of harsh criticism and gentle humor, which is a duality that parallels his own hybridized, Chicano- American identity. In “Happy 200th Anniversary,” Delgado reminds Amer- ica that “you are my country by choice and not by chance,” yet he remains stalwart in his belief that this land of his choosing is capable of:

historical sins errors, premeditated genocides robberies, broken treaties, double talk and abuses, oppression, imperialistic deeds and attitudes, acts of arrogance, racism.

He recalls his own struggle “to understand an anglo’s/colorless mind” in “Metamorphosis,” and poignantly depicts the emotions at:

having felt my gut hurt as if full of urine when I saw an anglo looking down at me.

It is such experiences—in the golden land of opportunity—that led Delga- do to conclude that “my integration and segregation are one and the same.” 6 Even his own literary being reflects the sad reality of being, at once, an insider and an outsider: for while he remains el abuelito to those involved with the Chicano movement, his name is hardly recognized in the domi- nant white culture. Here we see the effect of the distinct but parallel cul- tures that exist within the United States; here we see the ways in which Del- gado’s “integration” and “segregation” necessarily converge. And fittingly, while Delgado uses his own hybridity to tell of the need for visibility, justice and equality, the English-language typewriter upon which he composes his poems does nothing but help erase the very Spanish voice he seeks to validate. Delgado began his literary career at age twelve,

5 Delgado, Abelardo. Interview with Lisa Olken of Rocky Mountain PBS Television. “La Raza de Colorado.” Rocky Mountain PBS Television, June 2005.

6 Ibid.



although the initial reception to his work was harsh and censuring. When he handed his sixth-grade teacher his first written poem, she refused to read it, telling him that the rudimentaries of English—namely spelling and prop- er punctuation—must come before one can write poetry. Undeterred, the young Delgado eventually found himself a job at the local bowling alley, and used his first paycheck to purchase an Underwood typewriter. In the introduction to his work Living Life on His Own Terms, Delgado thought- fully considers the years he spent with that Underwood:

Time has caught up with me and I see the golden years engulf me and it makes me very sad that I am not the fifteen-year-old boy in South El Paso, the first one in the barrio to buy an Underwood typewriter, en abonos, to type my first poems and cuentos.

This machine enabled Delgado to both write poetry and to learn the intri- cate and underlying structures of the English language. He would type his verses on any material available to a poor child living in the projects. Indeed, Delgado would later choose to publish his poems with the letter- head upon which they were first written superimposed upon the final print- ed page. Upon finishing his project, Delgado would painstakingly read through his completed draft, handwriting the appropriate diacritical marks and accents, distinguishing the demonstrative pronouns from the demon- strative adjectives, and inverting the necessary punctuation marks. Despite the tedium involved in having to make visible his own Spanish language, Delgado continued to write his poetry in a blend of Spanish and English, believing that he could not accurately depict his Mexican roots by writing only in English. He contends that “culture is siphoned through lan- guage,” 7 and that if one loses his language, he also loses his culture. His words stress his belief that language can be a useful political tool for resist- ing oppressive power. In “The Chicano Manifesto,” he writes:

we want to let america know that she belongs to us as much as we belong in turn to her by now we have learned to talk and want to be in good speaking terms with all that is america.

7 Ibid.


Jarica Linn Watts

And because he has “learned to talk,” Delgado also uses his language to reject traditionally derogatory English terms, such as “illegal alien.” In “The I.A.,” one can see the ways in which language is used as a means of manip- ulation and control on the part of ruling entities. Here, Delgado asks “the honorable chairman” of a Congressional proceeding to yield “the floor to a Chicano for a minute.” He then asks,

why, what be more unamerican than to have the highest rate of unemployment and play deaf and blind to these “illegal aliens”?

Speaking with Olken, he elaborates on his usage of this term:

We part company with the term “illegal alien.” “Undocumented

worker” is our preferred term; for, “illegal” implies that you broke a law. But you break a law to do something more meaningful, which

is to subside, to live. It’s not a crime to try to live

when you use it with the [intent of] being derogatory. 8

Anything is bad

In this way, “The I.A.” offers a glimpse of what the embrace of racism might look like if allowed to proceed without restraint:

occupy mexico. send gavachos to look for work in mexico. declare all i.a.s. a communist threat. make it all an international harvest game. marry them off to every available u.s. dame—

What these examples demonstrate is that Delgado had a keen awareness of the ways in which language can be manipulated or redefined to deny indi- viduals equal rights, and he feared the lasting effects that the integration and continual usage of terms like “illegal alien” would have on undocumented populations. Delgado sensed that power is maintained through language, and thus, in an attempt to subvert the dominant structures at work in the United States, he refused to title this poem with the “derogatory” term he explains in detail above. Rather, he chooses as its title “The I.A” —an acronym for “illegal alien”—to demonstrate that he will in no way dignify the latter usage by giving it any critical weight.

8 Ibid.



Delgado’s poetry primarily reflects a deep concern regarding the cul- tural forces that privilege English over Spanish (“we who speak [two lan- guages] sometimes become victims of the American way of life”), white skin over brown. His poetry speaks of the hegemonic processes at work in the United States and laments that second-generation Chicanos resolve to identify most with white, American culture rather than with their Mexican

roots. According to Delgado, “it [assimilation] goes beyond appearance; the way you think is Anglo, and this is because we are indoctrinated by the

cultural forces that surround us

We are under the influence of the edu-

cational system and the media.” In his lifetime, Delgado saw this process with his own children and grandchildren. He tells Olken:

Look what happened to my eight kids. I sent them all to school, and the first thing they did was lose their name: Ana became Anne, Alicia became Alice, Arturo became Art, Alfredo became Freddie, Angélica became Angie, Amelia became Mellie and [Andrea became Andie].

Today we know them that way

We can try to hang on to our cul-

ture, but with time you will become an Anglo with brown skin (emphasis added). 9

In this telling statement, Delgado’s use of the word “with” seems to articu- late his greatest concern. For, while he is aware that cultural assimilation is, on some level, possible for the Chicano, he is quick to take his discussion back to the body, back to skin color, back to the “Anglo with brown skin.” Here, we are back to brownness. And this is where, according to Delgado, the Chicano’s complete cultural assimilation is doomed to failure. When questioned as to whether it is difficult to exist in a world where one must struggle to either assimilate or to keep one’s own culture, Delgado remarks,

You are talking to a man who stopped fighting this battle long ago There’s no way that I can assimilate because every morning I

Mexican face staring back at me.

look in the mirror and I see a

There’s no way that I’m going to be a blonde, blue-eyed Anglo Because of our skin, our desire to assimilate is stopped. 10

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.


Jarica Linn Watts

Here, Delgado is aware that he simultaneously identifies with—and is alienated from and rejected by—the idealized aspects of dominant white culture; as Homi Bhabha puts it, “not quite/not white.” 11 Delgado’s writing reflects this reality, speaking to the hearts of Mexican Americans who can see, mapped onto the pages of his poetry, their own struggle for acceptance, for assimilation, in America’s racially bifurcated society. Much like Gloria Anzaldúa’s new mestiza consciousness, Delgado surmises that the Mexican- American subjectivity develops in response to class, gender, religion, region and, above all, race and ethnicity differences. His poetry depicts the vast chasm that exists for Chicanas/Chicanos between physical appearance and the cultural processes that determine the way one thinks. According to Delgado, the former is Mexican; the latter is Anglo. It is also clear that Delgado writes much as he speaks—with the voice of one manipulating an imported tongue, a borrowed language. Yet, as he acknowledges in “De Corpus a San Antonio,” this is a tongue that he has worked to make his own: “what good is my poetic license,” he asks, “if i never get to use it?” He goes on,

because english is my second language the endings of english words

keep throwing me off

i rhyme love with job and orange would rhyme with change or ranch or even range. they all sound the same to my chicano ear.

way off.

Indeed, even the first line of the first poem in Delgado’s first published col- lection shows the subtleties of this dance. In “La Raza,” Delgado begins his literary career by writing:

no longer content with merely shouting vivas or wearing bright sarape and big sombrero, we are coming in if the world will receive us.

11 Bhabha, Homi. “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse.” Oct 28 (Spring 1984) 132.



In this line, he identifies the Mexican American’s utter refusal to be silent in the face of language barriers and cultural limitations. Or, to quote from

Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, “until I am free to write bilingually

while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as I long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate.” 12

In poems like “Temporary Labor Camp Blues,” Delgado writes of the injustices that continue when those affected are not given the opportunity to speak:


to hear growers through their organization representatives sing, oops, i mean testify before osha 13 , without guitar or violin, the sadness of their song brings sudden tears.

According to the poetic voice Delgado gives these representatives, the con- ditions in the field are adequate:

the flies are adequate. the non-existent toilets are adequate. the lack of privacy is adequate. but who defines “adequate”? where, pray tell, are the affected parties? they are in the fields, working, of course.

What we see, in particular, is that it is the plight of the farmworker that moved Delgado’s heart. In “The Poor Now Have a Voice,” he speaks on behalf of the “skinny malnutritioned bunch” who “migrate in the summers to pick crops of sorts.” Much like the seasonal travels of those to whom he dedicates much of his poetry—and his entire professional career—a great deal of his writing is also filled with movement, travel and land.

12 Anzaldúa, Gloria. Borderlands/La Frontera. San Francisco: Aunt Lute Books, 1999. 81. 13 The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency of the US government responsible for enforcing safety regulations and protecting the health of America’s workers. Delgado testified before OSHA many times in an attempt to pass fed- eral legislation that would improve the standards and working conditions for migrant workers.


Jarica Linn Watts

In “La Tierra,” Delgado composes a work to show the “unison” between Chicanos and the land; he articulates the ways in which the very essence of the Chicano body is something claimed by the land:

a chicano’s skin is adobe vented,

his wrinkles are surcos that time itself planted, the mud that in his veins passionately boils, and his soul something that la tierra invented.

Perhaps, then, it is the yearnings of Delgado’s soul, created by “la tierra,” that usher his movements from place to place. Many of his poems, such as “From Los to Reno,” “From Garden City to Hays,” “De Corpus a San Anto- nio” and “De Frisco a Boise,” depict his travels, and are titled not according to the cities from which he will either be departing or arriving, but rather within the “from,” the “to,” the “a,” the nebulous place that exists in the movement between destinations. Delgado wrote “Snow in Albuquerque” while sitting in an airport ter- minal (“Snow in Albuquerque this late in March caused a bit of pandemo- nium at the airport”). He opens “Three Margaritas Later” by describing an airport scene:

i already went through the weapon check

at concourse d but my head must be back at the bar

where mario and i shared three drinks.

And “Friday 12-16-77” begins with the line: “from one airplane to another. I am now on my way to El Paso.” This continual travel proved important for Del- gado’s work, as it led to his belief that multicultural societies would eventually be instrumental in combating racially and culturally motivated oppression. In this way, Delgado’s poetry aligns with the claims James Clifford advances in “Traveling Cultures.” Clifford argues that travel is a useful metaphor to describe the borderland, the place of inbetweeness that exists when one is able to view the world outside of a Eurocentric perspective. According to Clifford, the theorist—like the traveler—eventually recog- nizes that mobility and fluidity express the vision of culture far better than fixed notions of culture as essence. We can thus read the movement in Del-



gado’s poetry as a familiar metaphor for travel, for home and displacement, for borders and crossings, for multiculturalism and change. In Clifford’s words, “travel, in this view, denotes a range of material spatial practices that produce knowledge, stories, traditions, music, books, diaries and other cul- tural expressions” that can be used to disrupt monolithic representations. 14 Certainly poems like “The I. A.” speak to this desired multiculturalism, as Delgado provides a solution to many of the problems plaguing America:

“open up the borders,” he boldly recommends. Here Delgado is working to destabilize fixed notions of culture, with the ultimate goal of dismantling the supposed superiority of the culture of the West. “To theorize, one leaves home,” Clifford writes. 15 And, as the titles of his poetry evidence, Lalo Delgado was rarely at home. It is only in the stillness of “al desierto” that Delgado registers the motion that punctuates his poetry, indeed his life. Speaking of the “silen- cio” around him, he writes in “Espinas”:

all this was so strange to one who is usually surrounded in busy airports by many many people like espinas.

This frenzied pace is ultimately appropriate, however, because movement —more specifically the “vast movement for total change,” as he puts it in “Requiem for An Ex CAP Director”—is what Delgado spent his entire life championing. It is arguably this continued need for change that makes a collection like this so necessary. And yet, Delgado himself was painfully aware of the risks of any academic “representation.” In “The Chicano Manifesto,” he writes:

you see, you can afford to sit in libraries and visit mexico and in a way learn to understand us much better than we do ourselves but understanding a thing and comprehending a thing are two different

14 Clifford, James. “Notes on Travel and Theory.” Inscriptions 5 (1989), 108. 15 Ibid, 177


Jarica Linn Watts

While I do not pretend to “comprehend” the experiences embedded in Delgado’s work, I do know that in the years I have spent with his handwrit- ten material on my cluttered desk—and during the evenings I enjoyed in his family home, surrounded by un ambiente muy acogedor de sus hijos y nietos—I could not help but “understand.” I found myself moved by the sensitivity and humanity of his portrayals, and I knew that his work should again become available to those desiring to access and to understand the origins of Chicano literature. Thus, I first approached this project by wondering whether this collec- tion would do something that Delgado was, himself, unable to do. The answer was no: certainly he had already published, circulated and collected his own work. That work, however, is no longer available to readers. 16 Even- tually I questioned whether a project such as this assumes that I—a white, female academic—can speak for a man whose very agenda the white major- ity culture refused to acknowledge. It was in the midst of this paradox that I found a subtle reconciliation, a quiet urge, propelling me forward. Not only had this project originated because the Delgado family invited and encour- aged me to pursue it, but, indeed, Delgado’s work showed me that, in some way, all writing seeks to represent other positions in addition to the author’s own. Delgado’s poetry evokes the voices of racist politicians, white presi- dents of the United States, Aztec warriors, Mayan goddesses, deceased fam- ily members, unborn children, the list could go on. The point, here, is that, as a writer, Delgado recognized the inevitability that someday someone would seek to represent the Chicano voice. As a consequence, he articulates very clearly in “The Chicano Manifesto” the way that that person should proceed:

deal with us as you openly claim you can,


with love

with dignity.

It is my hope that this collection has done just that.

16 For this reason, I have chosen, for this collection, the five volumes (from the fourteen pub- lished by Barrio Books) most frequently cited by scholars and used in course syllabi. It should be noted that, aside from the individual works that Delgado self-published, there exists a vast collection of unpublished material at library archives throughout the United States. While the largest, unpublished collection of work still remains with the Delgado family, the Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas at Austin and the archives at Metropolitan State College, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Arizona also have collections of Delgado’s work.


CHICANO: 25 pieces of a chicano mind


dedicated to the mexican-american migrant

La Raza

no longer content with mearly shouting vivas or wearing bright sarape and big sombrero, we are coming in if the world will receive us as humans and not as pinto bean amoebas.

raza evolving, ever stronger, ever one, filling the Spaniard olive merging shadow and kneeling with the indian worshipping the sun and fighting revolutions with a rusty gun.

we, raced or razed mestizos shouldering conquest and enduring the harsh whip upon our cuero having had our sacred origin need no quest to find identity or set our souls at rest.

though méjico is la madre patria we go the world over seeking only greener meadow; poetic, sentimental, proud, copper ego serving as an emblem to a dream’s testigo.

identified by a last name or a language full of picardía, raza placed primero, raza placed to serve as paste to close the wedge between the human and the divinely alleged.

raza which fortunately includes the many who in the midst of poverty build a grotto; unfortunately, vendidos for a penny, agringados who think macho is uncanny.

the national, green carder, U.S. citizen, the pocho, the manito and the bracero, the Mex-Tex, what’s the difference? olvídensen, it’s the milk, raza, that an indian’s chichi sent.


La Huelga

wash well your throat with tequila so that your voice comes out tranquila

and then softly whisper


as if someone had killed your parents, someone has get off your comfortable ass and join the choir, sing to your lung’s capacity



shout huelga with anger



say huelga with love for the unborn chicanitos, put the salt of your tears into it. don’t be one more estúpido thinking huelga only means strike, shout it any way you like say huelga over and over like an ave maría. huelga with joy for today the sixteenth of September and July the fourth have gone to bed together. huelga with despair for it is the last word that chicano will utter before he turns himself to boiling butter.


La Tierra

la tierra is la raza’s kissing cousin, she’s the patient mother who will listen to the sun-baked lament of the one who toils, she’s playmate to the growing dozen.

she’s the sweetheart of young chicano dreamers decorating those dreams with live green streamers, she’s the woman with the perfumed sexy soils, her somber existence through yonder glimmers.

she is the banner of the revolution and wide battlefield and source of its solution, nourishment of men or mirror of turmoils, womb of all that starts, tomb of all conclusion.

méjico got some of you back

how dismal,

new mexicans reclaim you

odds abysmal

and texans wash their hands with your spat-out oils, while californians sing from your gold hymnal.

men love you, hate you, regulate you, they sell you, trade you and speculate you,

they build, they plant, they mine and from your despoils

bring life

comfort, riches and glamour anew.

while the arabs and jews over you dispute the price of your foot an anglo will compute, but only the soul of one, like a snake recoils, soul chicano which unison it can’t repute.


his wrinkles are surcos that time itself planted, the mud that in his veins passionately boils, and his soul something that la tierra invented.

a chicano’s skin is adobe vented,


El Macho

how does your own culture judge you a macho? how soon do you stop being a muchacho? why do you wear as heart a ripe pistachio and why does it pump contrasts instead of blood?

I’m the measure by which my culture judges,

I am a man at twelve needing no crutches,

I wear a heart that has no room for grudges, my whole being is a paradox of mud.

tell, why does an hembra find you attractive? does a man think your friendship is protective? why does suffering find you none receptive and why is your anger like a human flood?

women find my love brutal yet so gentle, ’cause a man knows my friendship will all mantle, suffering and I grew in the same ventral, my anger cries justice as if I were God.

tell me, macho, why does your bronze forehead swell as if in it was housed heaven or hell? with your gaze alone an enemy you fell, are, are you that good, you literal brown stud?

the Indian pride I house in me is the earth which gives us food and life its true worth, my dark eyes can also wake the dead with myrth, not a stud but stallion choosing my own cud.

why must your word be always final and curt and must you, mexican masochist, hunt hurt? will you even compromise ’til death from birth? will you let me use your brown divining rod?


my word is a contract that my handshake signs, pain is my thing, it’s with it that my soul refines, compromising is machismo’s parting lines, you can’t use my rod, I use it when I nod. my sentiments are raw, my tears come easy, my spanish soul is always in a tizzy, I think it’s she and not my skin that’s greasy, hombre cabal is macho not a male bud.


La Hembra

mujer mexicana, queen playing submissive, you alone can disarm a macho with your charms, the only strong chains he knows are your loving arms, your cinnamon breasts are two fire alarms.

the four stages of your life are all inclusive you are the little girl with two long black trenzas, taking with your almond eyes the world’s census, shaping a body which will be all sensuous.

nature was without reserve quite permissive in granting a señorita such perfection combining grace and dare in her every action, bet when she falls in love it is a free election.

when her flower opens it’s a time exclusive for there is no fire equal her kiss or sweetness, a way to make her man crave for her nearness is to make him of her love a living witness.

no woman will cling to youth, the fast illusive, with such tenacious abandon as she does, carrying a niño in her womb is the crux of all femininity that forever was.

her joy, her love, her endurance, is impressive but the way she suffers almost without a tear makes the hembra chicana divinely appear, makes her life fully mysterious and yet so clear.

your critics whisper your life is dull, reclusive, deep down they envy your serene security, you can give and take all with such maturity, you can change pain to joy and lust to purity.


La Causa

what moves you, chicano, to stop being polite? nice chicano could be patted on the head and wouldn’t bite and now, how dare you tell your boss, “go fly a kite?” es la causa, hermana, which has made me a new man.

what is this causa which disturbs your steady hand, could it be an inherited love of land or the indian impudence called pride that I can’t understand? this cause, hermano, is charcoaled abuse ready to burn.

what nonsense this brown power that you claim, what stupid demands erupt from wills untamed, what of your poetic submissiveness that brought you fame? es la causa, hermano, which leaves no one untouched.

delano awaits the verdict of the nation, del río and justice dance in wild anticipation, el paso and la causa will be good for the duration es la causa, hermano, raping apathy with flair.

san antonio cannot sleep another night, los angeles cannot forfeit another fight, denver cannot hide from us its burning light, es la causa, hermano, don’t let our heroes feel betrayed.

albuquerque trembles with the blast of sacrifice y todo el valle carries life at a cheap price, los barrios y los campos become a symphony of cries, es la causa de la raza an anthill upon your chest.

la causa for all those blindly involved who do not know is the planting of mañanas which will grow permitting the faceless chicanos of that day to go like eagles, as high as they can, as high as they want to.


El 16 de Septiembre

independence is a thing that’s old and man values it much more than gold. mexico wanted to rid indios of their yoke and its valientes and guns together spoke.

three centuries of domination and abuse call for termination, the rape and the abuse, the thievery and the lie got to where it was much better to die.

the mestizo jacinto camek, pipila with a rock on his back, costilla, morelos, domínguez, allende,

and aldama



when the right time came it beat the plan,

justice will not a minute wait

and so vivas on the sixteenth of september began a change we will long remember.

it can’t

morelos went south, virgin in front, guns and machetes ending much want,

liberation was the word

all chicanos were out to die or win.

out the gachupín

yet today in nineteen sixty nine

causes for revolting are now mine


aztlán, all your youth is hard as leather.

on denver, chicanos march together


El Inmigrante

golondrinas cortando betabel, americanos de papel, este méxico-americano

o nomás mejicano

que migra con to’ y familia

a los campos de colorado,

illinois, califa y michigan

se me hace que no es más que puro gitano. salmones en el desaije con un ojo a las colonias

a las cuales muy pronto volverán, no les voy

a decir por qué lo hacen

porque la verdad ni ellos saben,

quizá el cariño a la tierra mamado de una chichi prieta, quizá el corazón libre

que dicta la jornada, aunque el carro esté muy viejo

y la gasolina cara.

turistas sin un centavo de vacación en nebraska, aún alabama es un descanso de tejas. bumerangas que la mano de dios por este mundo tiró, gente buena, gente honesta, gente víctima de su necesidad de migrar, la lechuga o la justicia es lo que van a sembrar.



llevas en tu anchos hombros, mexicano, el peso de una lucha que parece en vano. el látigo del patrón benévolo cruzó tu espalda, razgó de la humilde india el español la falda.

robó tu tierra y la labró con tu labor esclava, con la ignorancia ató la única libertad que te quedaba. por mucho que quepa en la tinaja un día se llena

y se volvió en grito tu sufrir por mucho tiempo gema.

se volvió fusil el azadón que tu empuñabas, trincheras sangradas los surcos que con fe sembrabas.

no es nacional sino mundial lo que tú has hecho, contagia igual el deseo que hinchó tu negro pecho. no fue un diez y seis de septiembre el día para que tocara la trompeta su libre melodía. fue el día que un dios crio al hombre

y le otorgó de libre conquistador no conquistado su nombre.

la revolución cambia hoy en día de forma pero la cuestión social aún carece de reforma. la carrillera aquella de vaqueta corriente

es hoy la palabra que nace y brota de una triste frente. se trata aún de unirse codo con codo

y hoy como ayer se gana

o se pierde todo.


Cactus Fruit

a little jacal up in washington for us, we are proud, we the mexican-american youth thank our president out loud but a jacal built with pride no politics can break and a new administration will only more adobes bake. the nopal is old but we are the fruit, the youth, the future is our montoncito too, we are not mute, we are not deaf, nor dumb, we are maya, we are alert, we are la raza experimenting a new birth. God himself made his morena mother create us mestizos, us chicanos, 1531 was the date, and her cobija reached but well the U.S. west; spaniards, indians, mexicans, americans and none the best. our abuelos toiled the land and grabbed the rifle our machismo will not let us now settle for a trifle, whoever our leaders are we not only follow and trust but with us the full commitment of the spirit is a must. our nation must stop biting its tongue calling us sons for when it comes top time for a showdown we are the ones who little hesitate to fight, to sacrifice and die but we too like to walk in dignity looking at the sky. basta is a grito we respect and know but well and we in choir shout it now to the five corners of hell, we have no more generations for anyone to waste, we’ve eaten crumbs but we have developed a new taste. The time to study us like foreign wild animals is gone, we welcome help but resent aid that’s followed by a stone, we no longer wish la raza’s name be called in vain, we are maya, we are the cactus fruit soaking up the rain. thorny but sweet like tunas mejicanas we will meet anyone, anytime, any place like hombres in complete, but we will not allow any doubletalk at all for our dark eyes retain or give our very soul.


El Compadre

I dono why, compadre, but this dance

looks like it is going to end como las otras

with a hell of a brawl y muchos chingazos they’ve been givin’ me the dirty ojo

vale más irnos, compadre you ’no, compadrito, it’s good you are with me otherwise I would be more afraid, they are four tough-looking batos and frankly I am not in the mood for cabronazos,


they are coming after us vámonos, pronto a pelarle de aquí

to the saint que le dio en la madre al dragón

because here they come and they don’t want no conversation

ya me aterrizaron el primero pase una manita,


I think

entrust us



where are you? they’ll kill me

I am sorry, compadre

don’t leave me,

pero los jodazos duelen y de que le den a los dos



A César Chávez

tu sueño es contagioso, hermano, ya toda la nación sufre tu fiebre justiciera se ha originado en el pueblo de delano

y corre el germen atacando conciencias por doquiera.

te oímos en ft. lupton por la boca de herrera

y el pao tenía a pablo que hablé de ti con ojos aluzados,

tu mensaje es uno que va muy de carrera, levantando las frentes de pizcadores empinados.

tony y dolores son dos vocinas de confianza, tanto creen en lo que por nosotros buscas que cuando hablan de ti se convierte su voz en alabanza

y tu sueño bello hace que ante todos te trasluzcas.

oye, césar, la subida cuesta arriba ha sido dura oye, chávez, no te canses que mis hijos crecen ya, descansa un poco que ya cogió fuego la llanura

y el enemigo en vez de enfrentarse se nos va.

california ya es bajada, tejas se cairá, colorado espera sólo un grito, Arizona ya está lista, nuevo méjico aunque pequeño muy alto saltará

y luego michigan y utah, no esperan que nada las resista.

mira, viejo, que la juventud chicana ansía, mira a la hembra, mujer, madre y hermana, miran a tu servicio mil mentes como la mente mía ¿oyes sonar sonora la campana? ¿oyes cantar a la guadalupana


El Barrio

I am that piece of land “la ciudad” is trying to hide,

I house “gente” to whom the American Dream has lied,

in my corners stand the youth “morena” with no future, in my “callejón” walls’ graffiti find their nomenclature. my aroma of hunger brings “muerte” to the table, Monday’s wash on the “tendederos” tells a torn fable as a “chisme” dripping away from old women’s parched


I act as stereo amplifying clearly “dolor” shouts.

my “calles” shudder littered with the weight of many needs,

my “ambiente” is constant S O S so that no one heeds.

I am the alma mater of lost “almas” and bodies,

“yo soy” the unkept laboratory where man studies, erupting like a volcano “con un” upset stomach “escupo” the sick, the delinquent, I am a hammock to the “prostituta,” a cemetery to ambition,

a corner to “talento,” no exit just admission.

“yo soy el barrio,” the slum, the ghetto, progress’ sore


my zombies live “por hoy” and their children have grown pain numb, collectively I am a spirit “que es” explosive,

“yo fabrico” defeat of a quality that’s plausive, conservatively, comfortably “soy casa” of all who suffer, thirst and hunger, “formando” precious rubble,

I am “humano,” my skin absorbs with ease diseases,

through the marrow of my weak “huesos” a rat releases,

playful “cucarachas” and dancing lice, festive pieces as the barrio readies for “la venida” of Jesus.


El Río Grande

jorobado, arrugado, seco, como viejo mal cuidado va mi río grande ya menos apurado con el zoquete del tiempo manchado, por dos países maltratado y decorado.

si en vez de crujir tus aguas platicaran

que de hazañas no nos contaran

y si tus granos de arena miraran

cuánta mentira con su mirar nos desataran.

has visto sufrir al mejicano cambiar su sudor por tus aguas mano a mano,

tú le has dado a la lechuga el chile como hermano

y al tomate le cambiaste en algo humano.

en ancas de una mula cuando niño te crucé, miras tú el contrabando que el de la aduana no ve, sirves de espejo a la esperanza que se fue

y vives esperando la lluvia que una nube negra dé.

río grande, polvo de tejas, ramas, de nuevo méjico las ramas, duermes bajo la luz de luciérnagas y la música de ranas, para los enamorados tus orillas son mil camas

y de un amarillento carrizo son tus canas.

tu fama nacional es como una noche oscura

y tus aguas tiñen de una sangre insegura,

eres tú la puerta más cruel y la más dura. separas al hombre y haces de su ambición basura.

leí que se ahogó un mejicano que te quizo cruzar venía a los estados unidos y su muerte fue a encontrar, un día tus fuerzas como las fronteras se van a acabar háblame pronto, río grande, que el tiempo te va a matar.



how my honesty is disarming is even to me quite alarming but the other day

I met a fellow

who disarmed me. he wanted to look into your eyes (the cold-blooded bastard)

and not remove his wounding look until you answered him with a simple yes or no, he speaks of his life

my life which will be short young fellow too, but I guess in the newly initiated business of being honest one must be honest even with oneself. he is número tres in my collection of beautiful people, his name is narciso


I do hope the times

do not contaminate him and he continues to stare down injustices. but even more that he learns to love humanity and even those who cause calamity.


El Chisme

with more accuracy than an ol’ time pistolero and with the advantage of arriving there primero el chisme soap suds clean, the chicano’s noticiero can penetrate solid steel con más ganas reach an ear.

la vecina’s zippered lip can, gentle, non offensive, appear but even chet and david lack the details that she has if she didn’t see it happen se imagina lo que es, she’s not happy with the facts ’til she turns them al revés.

the network is so well organized that it now predicts with much precision where the gallup polls will not come near what the chisme gets going not the devil contradicts and church cannons look puny against the chisme’s edicts.

what baffles even the most of modern computations is how one chisme ruins a million reputations and another broadcasting from the same mouth makes you fear just proof that many tongues need immediate amputations.


The Majic Valley

san juan, I walked your streets at noon, weslaco, I found my street too soon, mission, pharr, edinburg, mcallen, donna and I don’t know all the others

I drove through

last Thursday morn at two, but I saw your humid palmeras

and heard the quimeras

of chicanos who love you,

el valle, sur tejas,

they are busy, pobrecitos, arguing with machines which took their jobs away, with the rude troqueros

who have lost their humanity in one of those deals they make, yes, san juan, I ate huevos rancheros

y tortillas de maíz,

I taped a couple of poems

for one of your radio stations and I understood why they call you magic; the magic they speak of is the love chicanos have for you when they should hate the misery you bring them, with your laws of cold unconcern, with the love you don’t return.


La Revolución

some dream of revolutions after all they are also one of the solutions but in their dream they neglect to take into account that real characters participate in them. some fight relevant revolutions they mean to bring with bullets needed absolutions and like players of that one dream they act their parts and for a minute in their fight they too dream. some betray revolutions, they start out endorcing with hearty allocutions the evident need for reform but to them the bodies of revolutionaries are merely stepping stones. some inspire revolutions, because in their desire to right wrongs there are no illusions, it is a real manly christian honest desire to put injustices here on earth to temporary fire.

mexico became an early model of that dream, that fight, that betrayal, that inspiration but not in the words of hombres ilustres or even in the words of generales valientes can the wisdom or sense of la revolución be found but in the thick lips of a prospective soldado razo about to join las tropas at a crossroad.

where are you going? why are you fighting? ¿cuál es la causa? who is the enemy?

and after hearing only silence for an answer to his painful questions he gives a big grito


but the moreno capitán does not accept

his enthusiasm

wait for me yo voy con ustedes


and looking into his dos carbones of a pair of eyes


’cause your revolución cannot be as bad as the life I’m living

ven, pues, you’re fiber with which the change sarape we are weaving.

why do you want to come with us?


Mamá Lupe

you labored in pain at tepeyac hill to give soul birth to a race of strong will, your apparitions spoke the indian tongue, your very words were in that language sung.

lupe, mother of the taparabos, follows her child wherever her child goes, lupe, mother of putas and thieves, like sunshine and rain falls the love she gives.

root of God and of mestizos as well like a mother as far as we can tell she asks nothing of her children and gives all, she sits in heaven waiting for his call.

miracle of chemistry and numbers, housed your picture now in golden chambers, to you kneeling indios still proudly crawl and when they kiss the ground stand most tall.

lupe in my wallet and on the wall mamá lupe, estrellas in her shawl morena dulce, don’t do what I do and forget me like I’ve forgotten you.


La Guadalupana

december twelve fifteen thirty-one la raza was born on mount tepeyac una bella india from heaven standing on the moon, covering el sol, dressed with the stars performed a mathematical miracle baptizing indios by the millions over night for her other son. a hanging, visible, touchable arte en costal drawn with twelve winter roses soaked in the bold blood of God, my flesh mother bears your name with pride, sometimes with scorn, guadalupe, take charge of the third one of my seven, guadalupe, mother of putas who hang around bars, also of taxi drivers cherry hill advertising, mother of the revolution’s still working rusty gun, mamá de los ojos negros, de pensamiento fatal

you alone say our wad.

am I not here

when we overshoot


El 26 de Agosto

tiembla ciudad del paso que hoy hablan tus chicanos tiembla nación de América que ya se llaman hermanos.

miran ellos con un herido coraje

y buscan con sus miradas

un hombre como ellos que no se raje.

suena agudo el grito verde que proclama raza y causa

y la juventud chicano alega

que ya no hay tiempo pa’ pausa. vienen desde muy lejos porque ya se acude luego al grito de otro chicano

y hoy es desafío lo que antes era su ruego.

el segundo barrio y juárez se les hinchan adobes y ladrillos

de ver morenos parados y muy derechos

y ver juntos a los caudillos.

alemán vino de michigan, compeán desde san antonio, el corky voló de denver,

orendain desde san juan, o del demonio, unos batos de califa,


uno desde nueva york


todos fueron bien recibidos

por los líderes del paso el pipis, el melo, el chacha y el geras junto con tony moreno van a enseñarle a los gringos lo que es ser de deveras


Un Telegrama

ora narciso

tijerina traí carabina, chávez ya traí las llaves, cha cha afila el hacha,

valenzuela ya va que vuela,

ora ramírez

ora pipis pa’ que desquites,

de león traí buen cañón,

ora gordo

orendain a ver que train,

ora, tú, lalo dales un palo, tú, compeán que se nos van, tafolla ya está que atolla,

ya se nos hizo,

no te me estires,

no te hagas sordo,


por aquel lalo,


ya está en lo hondo,

quintanilla ya formó orilla, sánchez pa’ que te enganches, cantú, encomiendate a belcebú, lópez dales que te los topes, también tú, hernández, no le hace dónde andes, tú, ruiz por la matriz, mientras que esmeralda cuida la espalda, atencio, guarda silencio, valdez no te me des, chaca con la matraca, herrera, échalos en carrera, memo, a darles que ya me quemo, nino viene con el vecino, aguilar, guarda el lugar, moreno, échales trueno, pallanez, no te desganes, tú, orona, por la pelona, gonzales, enseña tú lo que vales, ávila, ponte más águila


rivera, no se te olivde la carrillera ojeda, fíjate a ver quién queda pérez, no desesperes

este telegrama fue firmado por el presidente de los estados unidos este día de nuestro snowman


Stupid America

stupid america, see that chicano with a big knife in his steady hand he doesn’t want to knife you he wants to sit down on a bench and carve christ figures but you won’t let him. stupid america, hear that chicano shouting curses on the street he is a poet without paper and pencil and since he cannot write he will explode. stupid america, remember that chicanito flunking math and english he is the picasso of your western states but he will die with one thousand masterpieces hanging only from his mind.


El Vendido

my son is a sellout he just became a boy scout.

I would like to entertain

the notion of sellouts or vendidos as we say a la chicano. josé lópez has been working as a janitor for the last twelve years today he got a two dollar raise and today also he has been accused by the barrio of being a vendido, josé is thinking very seriously of refusing the raise to preserve his barrio image.

if a man is not made to deviate from his goal all his actions,

whatever they may be, disqualify him as a sellout.

a man sells out

the minute he compromises with a different goal and needs not the criticism of his chicano brothers for he (the funny thing about selling out) pays for himself. finally no chicano can sell himself for you see, he is too dumb, he has not arrived at a price or could it be he is too wise.


The Chicano Manifesto

this is in keeping with my own physical condition for I am tired—too tired perhaps for this rendition but la raza is also tired and la raza cannot wait until I rest she wants her rest also but there is much catching up to do. anglos have asked (I think sincerely) what it is that you chicanos want? those with power to be, influencing our lives, have asked is it understanding? is it that you want us to tolerate you? is it admittance? and when I heard those questions like remote control my chicano anger took over and I answered the arrogant questioning


or the question “what do you want” either you see, you can afford to sit in libraries and visit mexico and in a way

learn to understand us much better than we do ourselves but understanding a thing and comprehending are two different matters tolerate is a word we use in reference to borrachos, we do not wish you strain yourselves with toleration of our, supposedly, intolerable ways

we do not want any of that


is a fine one for it puts you inside and us outside asking like cats and dogs in the rain to be let in. the nature of your questions assumes you have something to offer.


question of admittance


but there is one thing I wish you would do for us, in all of your dealings with us, in all your institutions that affect our lives

deal with us as you openly claim you can,


correct your own abuses on la raza for your own sake and not for ours so you can have some peace of mind


which comes cheaper according to your own value system let me tell you what we want, not from you but from ourselves and for ourselves

we want to let america know that she belongs to us as much as we belong in turn to her by now we have learned to talk and want to be on good speaking terms with all that is america. from government we want to become visible and not merely legislated and supervised but included in the design of laws and their implementation. from education we want the most that it can offer, a history that tells it like it is, principals, teachers, counselors, college professors and all this from chicanos a la chicana and this we are not asking por favor but merely as an overdue payment and we might even forget the previous score. from the church we very piously ask less sermon and more delivery more priests to preach Christ’s merciful justice, less alms and tokens in the name of charity and more pinpointment of the screwing going on. from los chicanos del barrio y de los campos we also have some strong demands

with love

with dignity.

you see

we only lack a piece of bread


(among ourselves there is much more confianza) we want you to plot a clean escape but very soon, lose your habit of speaking in low voices and of walking with cabezas agachadas, you are poor only in material for your heritage is very rich. from chicanos with a little bit of wealth and power les pedimos una mano but to give los olvidados

not a damn thing for your hand

as brothers that you, even if you don’t want to, are. and finally to the draft board

they are asking but only in amistad

we have a few words to share with you

no la jodan

our manifesto I know is general but we saved the especific for the end for the chicano migrant is about to become like your American buffalo

those who claim that was a crime with animals

metan gabachos también


are now in good position to prevent one with humans

or will the migrants honor come as always



Bajo el Sol de Aztlán


Snow in Albuquerque

this late in March caused a bit of pandemonium at the air- port. I saw from the airplane the cold white blanket over city and plains. Nature’s way of whitewashing a city. It gave me a couple of free hours to enter into the prepara- tion of choosing some old versos y poemas to read in and around Phoenix and Tucson in my ten-day reading tour. This tour will pay for the tortillas and beans which my wife and eight children as well as I will eat during April provided food prices stay put or else I may have to do without the tortillas y entrarle al puro biro.

About this place in most of my introductions I’m supposed to say something profoundly philosophical or philosophi- cally profound. I will bypass that by merely mentioning that my daughter, Amelia, gets a penny for every white hair she gets from my otherwise dark cabellera. My canas are a good source of income for her as the other Saturday she was up to two dollars and eighteen cents when I told her to stop, I was afraid she would leave me pelón. They say that white hair is a symbol of maturity, respect, worry and many other such. At forty-one the only symbol I see is getting old. The canas go well with my size 42 panza and my bitter mellow verse. —Se te pasó el bus, Lalo, —I tell myself at nights before going to sleep, meaning my chances of becoming a great writer or a great anything are all gone as my energy and creativity decreases in propor- tion to the hard topes que me da la vida.

Last night in my easy chair I sat through the dramatiza- tion on tv of the Pueblo Incident and got pretty emotional- ly shook with the program. Things like that and movies such as “Walking Tall” influence my writing, not to men- tion the Watergate mess, the Supreme Court’s decision on equal educational opportunities, evidently defined by them as those with money rightfully having a bit more of


the equal access. A four to five decision affecting four to five million Chicano children, blacks, indians and poor whites.

The price of steak and eggs has made me and my thoughts turn socialist or communist, at least while I’m by the cash register trying to pay for the carrito de mandado.

The reason being that I could care less what things cost as

I go around picking what I feel like eating and not looking

at the price per pound. But

what of the carnales who don’t make a hundred a day con- sulting, training or reading poems? They do not only have to look but to do without. Such thoughts do much to destroy my appetite and I cannot enjoy the food I can afford at any price.

here’s the big “but”

I can only manage to maintain my optimism, my faith in

life, in god, in America by becoming proportionally insane or plotting, when I am not expressing that insanity in poetry, some escape routes or looking for common denominators that would weld us humans divine or us divine humans. Gold at $105.00 an ounce, poetry at 22¢ a

line and eggs at 95¢ a dozen (extra large)

pos qué pedo .

vendo el oro, escribo el verso y me como unos huevos rancheros.





por siempre en adelante


bajo el sol de aztlán juramos unos a los otros apoyo, cariño, respeto, confianza y carnalismo. vivir esclavos y haber muerto en vida es casi lo mismo.

aquí, con los ojos y a la vez la mente clara hoy, ante todo el mundo el chicano libre se declara,

y para eso con un fuerte abrazo, aquí

la vida misma tú me prometes

te prometo a ti.

aquí, en la cuna de la revolución social chicana hoy, cinco de mayo, la raza libre y soberana declaramos con el pecho en llamas el orgullo que cada chicano por ser chicano tiene como suyo.

aquí, nos hemos decidido

sino a aumentar el paso y enseñar a todos lo fino

que es ser chicano y lo sagrado de nuestra causa

y les recordamos que ya no es tiempo de pausa.

no a emprender camino

aquí, sientan absorber, de uno a otro, la fuerza del espíritu de nuestro movimiento que es inmensa

e invencible

vivir como hombres libres

poco es lo que queremos,

o mejor moramos.


Why Am I Here?

ey, carnal, why are you here with all your brothers? why do you raise questions with which no one else both-


ey, carnal, what was it that you felt as we walked? why mañanas did your espíritu kept going on to stalk?

why am i here? eh

i raise questions ’cause i sense that something’s wrong

and as i walked i felt, well

more than that, as a chicano, which only another can understand.

qué va

because i belong!

a free man—


my spirit seeks noble and worthy fulfillment of my dreams, a place where no one against another any longer schemes and where the word “underprivileged” is buried, yeah, carnal, if i’d known earlier i’d have hurried.

i cannot help but know that while i am here

there are others who are yet prisoners of fear and are content to read of us tomorrow, for these carnales i cannot help but sorrow.

my spirit goes to all the hermanos wasted away

but here i am and they are gone and here

i pledge before all of my raza not to rest

until the chicano way of life is proven best.




i drank words from lips shaped nice

and sip’d the coolness of your green eyes

and lost track very fast of what those words meant for there in the crowded

breakfast table of the “red lion”

i savagely had mental

communion and i was caressing, kissing, sexing your spirit in spite of your body, and pancakes and coffee

i breakfasted you

naked on the tablecloth warming with your body food for the intimate meals of lonely souls, of souls of complete strangers who knew not one another just last sunday but in the timeless world of eternity where souls do live reality is only that which you believe.


Museum Piece

collector’s item three thousand and nine,

a poor, poor friend of mine,

the last of his kind you see, it came to be that in this blessed country of ours where impossibilities are not allowed (we had to use the “not allowed” signs with space on top) we decided to end poverty and got damn serious about it, first o.e.o. took a crack at it but it seemed to do the opposite by multiplying the poor

like their rented duplicating machines multiplied survey forms, the whole government threw its weight

behind such noble efforts

even the church took action after combing through the obscure passages of the king james (revised) edition but, alas, they could not either

to no avail,

come up with a solution, other than giving poverty holy absolution.

it was not until the mafia,

the cosa nostra, the brotherhood said enough to poverty that almost overnight poverty ceased to become only an americana museum piece.



my integration consists (my, how the thought persists) of having kissed an anglo girl once, twice, a hundred times. my integration consists of having married an anglo girl (ceremony was in latin, tho) my integration consists of having once fiercely punched an anglo man once, twice, a hundred times. my integration consists of having once tried to understand an anglo’s colorless mind, my integration consists of having felt my gut hurt as if full of urine when i saw an anglo looking down at me. my integration consists (and here i end all lists) of having become an anglo without having died and without having been born again, my integration and segregation are one and the same.


Twin Falls

twin falls

out of the same desire born? the desire to be free el uno, el espíritu de orgullo, el otro, el espíritu de amor, el uno, una espina. el otro, una flor. que a toda es vernos aquí de nuevo, verda’ de dios—two years later, to come back here and show each other the battle wounds,

to remember the drops of frustration flowing, salting the bigotes of great hombres y las mejillas de mujeres finas, enseñarnos dónde nos hemos herido uno al otro, dónde el sueño nos mintió, dónde nosotros le mentimos al dream que teníamos. —vamos hoy a apartar derrotas de victorias.

or is it twin spirits


pedro y rogelio y beto y lula y celia


lópez y ligas, benavidez, sánchez y silva,


reyna y dionicio y julie y héctor y maría,

i swear i have seen all these carnales y carnalas before

in some ancient aztec city, weaving aztlán

with their own blood, shading al sol con su plumaje fino or zapateando coplas en la vieja españa, descanzando al fin del surco, buying groceries en el valle de tejas, en lubbock, en crystal, en laredo, dying by the trincheras en la revolución, crossing the río grande, riding in the back of trucks, and today—resollamos hondo, enterramos las diferencias, las envidias, el odio y la movida chueca, el insulto

y marchamos juntos siguiendo a la esperanza

en un nuevo día, el camino es aún angosto pero la libertad siempre se ha pagado al costo.


Oh, Shit

even though the title of this poem isn’t romantic it is a phrase that speaks of love that is authentic, i find myself thinking of you more and more, you are right, it is unfair to only taste a food

so appetizing

taste when one wants to devour such was an episode we can call ours,

waking up in my arms, i, feeling your naked body near, warm, satisfied and safe, oh, shit, right, echo that in loud musical notes

or sing it like a franciscan chant or let a choir do encores on

oh, shit

and pretty soon the vulgarity of such a phrase goes away and it becomes pure and lovely just like you have often uttered it, once, while half-kneeling half-sitting in the moonlight, moon, which even now is jealous of my touches and continues to blush as she watches.



oh, shit

oh, shit


La Secre

this secretary who wears no panties is a revolutionary aprentice, she takes dictation and types stencils but her contribution to the movement ends not there she also moves with the movement, drinking tequila,

shouting ay



o’ i know she’s anglo, anglos no longer just fund revolutions and run guns now they get involved and at times even refuse to vacate the front but getting back to this secretary with the legs which could make a nice guide on a flag she is really dedicated, vindicated, abdicated and come to think of it for her it will be easy to become a chicano colonel by just marrying a chicano and dying brown her pretty ano.

My Unborn Sons (Or Daughters)

flowering words not yet sure of their gender or their meaning they crowd the shelves of my unused mind they rattle now and then only to remind themselves and i that they exist ready to describe some new emotions, some distant days, some smiling faces for now, they sleep for i have trivia to keep.


there are many who are not afraid to shout openly—viva la causa but how many are willing to become la causa? there are some who are ready to die for the revolution but how many will live for it?

sex is either over-glorified or underestimated but seldom is it just sex.

it is always true that power, knowledge, honor make man highly complicated and sophisticated but in the case of true greatness man remains simple.

the true root of all problems is the refusal of the situation and consequently of the role one must play in it, many of us go through life wanting to be an ass when our role was to be an eye.

one good soldier is worth a thousand brilliant generals on the battlefield.

The Inn of the Seven Arts (Better Known as the Pittman’s)

smack center phoenix, palm trees and orange blossoms temona awaits, the door is open, come and rest ye poets, musicians, painters, dancers and hoboes,

credentialed artists and aspiring fools. arthur is playing ajedrez melissa’s at ballet practice and a daughter who denies god plays constant and beautiful piano music for him— a son is away finding his own healing touch and hal, zen-like, christ-like

carves new life for someone under a microscopio. don’t worry about upsetting there serenity or the food bill temona’s formula works well the more she shares with others the more her late discovered god goes on to share with her. don’t even say gracias and when you leave leave the puerta abierta just as you found it.

i was there a week

i know.

the magii, the messiah, saint joseph, chicanos, blacks, roamers of all kinds and races have found this spiritual oasis discovered there their own hands and faces.



you are part of sunday my sunday, my sunday in dallas,

my sunday nublado and your morning eyes serene and dark

i drank

your nearness radiated a sun of its own

and your mouth waiting invited

i penetrated

spelled mystery

a kiss

you caused me intimate bliss.

an imaginary kiss


Ya No

ya no

ya no quiero pintar mi verso gris quiero pintarlo un verde rojo, no quiero escribir más del mal de la miseria, del hambre

ya no—ya no ya no quiero escribir poemas de hombres que no aman y no sueñan, que llevan el alma envenenada,

quiero escribir mis rimas de gozo, de un gozo tan dulce

que haga que mi alma agarre lumbre



me broten unas lágrimas de fuego


con ellas caliente al mundo entero.

ya no

ya no

ya no

no quiero escribir

de dudas y malicias

y de hombres ciegos

que nunca han visto a dios, quiero convertir mis palabras en sonrisas

en besos y abrazos

y hacer con ellas en cada amanecer una poesía.

quiero ponerle fin

a amar

al verso triste

quiero que aprendamos

y a compartir

y a respetar.

ya no

ya no quiero escribir

ya no

ya no



de lo que veo sino de lo que sueño.


The Poet as a Mirror

like some people i have met and seen with the capabilities of a human x ray machine para el alma. the mirror must be clean to capture the image well

ah, yes darkness allows no images

.there must be light

only bulks and shadows.

a camera, an x ray machine

can capture images with accurate fidelity

a million times better than man can. so true

but the poet/mirror interprets what’s not there visible to the unpoetic eye. transports he/she the image of a mesquite guarding the sands of a desert and plants it in the big busy city’s slum, measures the fleeting moment-love and makes it stand still on paper for the slow, the non poet to come and stare at as long as he/she wants to. in his better moments he hunts god and once in a while brings back pieces of him/her like moonrocks for us to have instead of bread and wine converted and this mirror as if by inherited magic formula inplanted in his glass/blood soul creates at rare moments as god did something out of nothing.


Happy 200th Anniversary (In Case We Get There)

u.s.a., my country, just in case you get there and i don’t, or if you weren’t and i were, let me wish you a happy 1976 and it can really be, you know. patria pecosa and antihigiénica, spraying lysol and aerosol on everything and gargling away lies with listerine, patria sucia envenenando el río, the lake, the forest, the city with factories that manufacture nothing and cars that go nowhere.

i am one of those fools who love you,

who believe in your dream, in your soul with freckles and pollution,

i believe in your constitution

and that thing called balance of powers,

i believe in you and in god and in santa claus.

you could indeed be great and number one, my country, by choice and not by chance, the rock music, the pot incense through your many ventilators, your giant corporation mergers, corruption, la mafia, graft and churches of christ without christ all of this could be right as if only one of those disney characters would wave at us


magic wand,


here, then, is my secret

how you can be

gift to you, i know

the pride of the

very universe.


in those short couple of centuries you have written your own history, the version has you on god’s right and under the skirts of lady justice destined to multiply democracy like germs and spread god unto pagans as if he were margarine and we couldn’t it is not nice to fool mother nature.

the secret is like those freckles en el alma que tenemos como pecas from “pecatore”

a worldwide confession is in order

acknowledging the historical sins errors, pre-meditated genocides, robberies, broken treaties, double talk and abuses, oppression, imperialistic deeds and attitudes, acts of arrogance, racism,

laws written to steal and with fraudulent intention, our selfish imposition, intervention, and profit-chasing madnesss, apologize to the entire world, to mexico, korea, vietnam, al indio, al negro, al chicano, al mismo blanco only then when you and i humbly accept we did wrong,

que la cagamos, pues

.can we live in peace.

the flagwavers

believe such a day will never come, that it is beyond their diginity, the very essence of being american

is being proud, historically proud


and righteous.

those who beg off

a moment of truth

and wish to ignore the watergate mierda,


the pueblo incident, the u.2, the chicano educational atrocities, the indio buffalization, the blackman’s de-dignification, the many appalachias, the treatment of viejitos and veterans, the exploitation of ten million for the sake of a few, the cochinadas going on we call craft, the slavery of farmworkers, all these unamericans prevent us from truly being great, acknowledging we goofed and feeling sorry and ashamed for the misery we’ve caused can only make us stand tall before the very stars of heaven, we can be then god’s chosen ground for his re-entry, going to the moon or mars cannot possibly equal the heights we can reach and at that all it takes is a president

with guts to say it to us to the world,


for us

three hail marys and three our fathers

and three billion dollars and a promise to sin no more or better yet a promise to screw them all instead of pay after all, fools like me and bigots like you love you anyway.



there was no coffee or juice to be had so i drank the morning instead, it tasted of desert and sun and satisfied me as well using the windows for my drinking glass and the hills around for spoons

me desayuné. seeing nopales y chile secándose al entrar volví a ser niño otra vez

feeling myself very alone me abracé de la noche anoche y en aquel silencio hermoso como niño también me dormí.

all this was so strange

to one who is usually sorrounded in busy airports by many many people like espinas.

the noise of a jet overhead reminded me







la lluvia had made death valley

sprout from its dead earthy womb the most beautiful of desert flowers according to the color tv serving the six o’clock news

and the tv don’t lie

when it comes to desert flowers. maybe the desert, all deserts, have always been within y nuestra sequía sí tiene fin.



so much tenderness cannot forever captive be an so one morning early upon awakening ran free how many thousand minutes after do i flavor (mental-tongue now) its escape, i was, for lack of words, touching the thoughts, poor substitutes that they remain, and felt the blanket night puzzled by the once in an eternity scenes which never do repeat but which awaiting cues, behind the stage of living, alertly, predicted, do remain, banquets of love cannot be rushed even if the hunger so demands

and so

such meal must yet be taken slow

well, anything but still, spirit, anything but tame, child dipped in womanhood.


frozen by floodlights, asking forever to repeat

the question or the answer

embarrassed? no how can anybody be

embarrassed to be born? my whole body wants to speak so i must be quiet now

only your fingers can listen

to really know

shivering like a frightened rabbit

how can i be?

only they know how.


Uanetl, Indio sin Regalo

uanetl, fue uno de los últimos aztecas que ofreció sacrificio al sol. uanetl, no era de los nobles

y tuvo que esperar a que todos

hubieran terminado,

uanetl, no soñaba sueños bonitos

y las pocas veces que quizo

describir sus humildes aventuras se rieron mucho de él, el sacrificio al sol se tenía que hacer ese día

y el sol ya empezaba a someter

su cara ardiente circular cuando uanetl llegó a la

piedra sacrificial al pie de la pirámide se sintió muy solo y muy triste

y se dio cuenta que sus

manos estaban vacías

—no llevaba nada que ofrecer a los dioses— de sus ojos negro-noche brotó una lágrima del tamaño de una gota de agua de llovizna. los dioses se conmovieron

y lo llenaron de bonitos

pensamientos, de sueños y palabras

y le concedieron algo muy grande

vivir escondido en el futuro dentro de millones de chicanos en aztlán.


love itself in one of those moments of ecstasy

which missed its target impregnated humanity, no, not a race

or a class

but humanity’s womb in general

with the green gene but some mutations roam the earth

and we were born

who rather than wanting to accumulate

they share rather than hate—they care.


From Los to Reno

lubrica mi existir con gotas de tu amor, transforma mi frío en tu calor


pon toda la ternura en tus dedos


tócame, enbrújame al tocarme

con caricias tuyas

y alas de mariposas negras.

rompe el silencio con unas

frases dulces, hazme saber, hazme comprender lo incompleto que verdaderamente soy, busca con tus labios a los míos

y plántales un sol

que diga un beso. en nudo semi seda semi humano vamos a emprender camino

a lo divino,

vamos a gozar la desnudez de dos espíritus en pleno verano, caminemos, compañera mía, amante, esposa, novia, lo que seas,

aluza tú primero

que más tierna tienes la mirada, ponle a mi corazón un distintivo para que pueda bailar toda la noche, haz que broten de mi corazón con la misma frecuencia palabras que sólo brotan de mi mente, abrázame, apaga de una vez la sed con tu presencia

y baña mi deseo con tu inocencia.


Cream or Sugar?

siempre, carnal, el café del vivir es negro y muy amargo

sin embargo hay su crema, su leche de bote, su coffeemate

y su azúcar

endulzado el café como nuestras vidas

sabe más suave.

mataron a mi compadre manuel el viernes en la cantina, la green lantern, lo mató un gabacho chiple

y por seguro, su papá, el influyente,

lo sacará de éste y otros líos

(ya había matado a otro cristiano hace unos años)

a mi compa, chema, le dio tres plomazos (al otro lo navajeó)

y pa’ la coma y su hijo y su jefita

pos lágrimas negras y amargas como el café, la azúcar y la crema en que los años juntos los vivieron

a toda,

como una familia, chica, pero muy feliz,


que siempre andaba, comulgó esa mañana sin saber que en la noche lo tatemaban haciendo su deber como un policía especial,

quesque cuidando la ley y el orden nosotros sí que respetamos esas cosas

y hasta morimos por ellas

pero otros nomás hablan porque se oye bonito hablar.

el compa, tan cerca de dios


Three Margaritas Later

i already went through the weapons check

at concourse d but my head must be back

at the bar where mario and i shared three drinks,

i, three margaritas and he, three bloody marys he substituted, as a good chicano should, tequila for vodka and at a dollar-thirty a drink plus tip we also shared some words, some private confessions which became more sincere and more private after the second drink.

i wait here at gate six

my frontier jet to tucson, i’ll be an hour-and-one-half late,

everything seems to be running late


even death waits a bit longer to come and claim us among the lost and found. mario went his way caminos diferentes todos llegando a donde mismo

destiny had it

which went haywire in the god-computer, that i discuss with another carnal at breakfast my philosophy on life, the hereafter and all that junk in which a few nuts like us are interested, the margaritas rested.



Feliz Cumpleaños, Esposa Mía

que te alcancen mi beso y mi abrazo felicitando el hecho que hoy es tu día, que en la palabra mi corazón pierda un pedazo al decirte, feliz cumpleaños, esposa mía.

after all these years together we have learned to assume, without too much trouble, each other’s identity and in all these years how often i’ve yearned not to take for granted the fact that you are an entity.

es que aún después de tanto juntos

no en verdad nos conocemos bien

y al seguir extraños los más íntimos asuntos quedan sin palabras en las mentes de cada uno, de cada quien.

i’ve often wanted to tell you how beautifully serene your face appears, like out of some roman cuento particularly when to the act of love le hemos puesto fin but i have held the comment back, shy, lo ausento.

to remember your birth is a very private thing even esposos cannot fully appreciate or share but i think can be thankful for your wedding ring tells me you were born for me to somebody care.

y que si de nuevo te digo

cuántas veces antes ya de mi lo has oído, mas como un ave maría que se dice por el mundo entero miles de veces, cada nueva vez tiene nuevo sentido.

te quiero,

jainita mía, sweet, contenta y triste compañera look at the sunny side of our lives, the rainbows and hold back those ready tears, our vereda, i admit, is narrow but together we don’t care where it goes.


From Albu to Tucson

mi bisabuela, dios la tenga en paz, andrea flores,

ciega y tullida, contaba cuentos de los mejores,

desde su humilde catre

desenredaba fantásticas leyendas

y yo con la boca abierta

pequeño pero muy alerta me le colgaba con toda mi imaginación

su voz ya débil

y aquel aún inocente corazón,

de cada una de sus palabras. ella era en mi infancia, mucho antes

que se inventara la televisión,

mi zenith de 21 pulgadas

allí conocí, verda’ de dios que sí, porque los miraba en mi mente

cada que ella los mencionaba,

a colores.


chucho el roto, simbad el marino,


a juan sin miedo

ese juan sin miedo sí me cuadraba

y ella con la mano temblándole mientras

prendía otro “faro” o “carmencita”


a chupe y chupe y a cuento y cuento


quién iba a pensar aquel entonces

que tantos años después

despertado el recuerdo quizá por los sangoloteones


un jet


por unos tequilitas

yo me iba a acordar de aquella


que cuando se le secaba la boca

de tanto hablar

me decía —tráime un jarro de agua, hijito

canuda y arrugada


yo corría a la tinaja


ese jarro de agua era el “comerical,” el intermedio


le seguíamos luego con la aventuras de juan sin miedo.


Preguntas Pesadas

for some strange reason i cannot explain i woke up from my usual unperturbed sleep trying to define you

a bottle

that’s it, one with no bottom


so that many can pour themselves into but none can be contained within. (poured, used here spiritually and sexually) and since most of us are bent on our own destruction (including and mostly you and me) we became weapons for each other and as weapons share no blame in the intention of the user. since the bottle is open at both ends there is no room for a spirit.

can you, bottle without corks,

fall in love?

have faith?

be faithful?

be happy?

that glass

from which the bottle is made is very sensitive, very sensuous

have a child?

and desirable

and it can accommodate


and all can rub themselves into the sides

and the sides are warm but nonetheless made of glass.


Under the Skirt of Lady Justice 43 Skirts of Abelardo


Requiem for an Ex CAP Director

symbolically his staff presented him with a huge sword with which to kill a dream which is fast turning into a nightmare. the dream was ending poverty. now poverty in the cap agencies is multiplied and duplicated in their expensive xerox machines. the sword was presented to ralph rivera in boulder colorado en la casa de los sáiz. he was a modern don quixote who chased dragons in the sky riding first class in jets. he almost cornered the dragons in washington, d.c. by now, like rivera, there are many more chicanos who never dreamed of being executives of the business of poverty. now they are ex cap directors. some are even in prisons. others became the target of the randomly thrown vendido label our raza applies to them. rivera is but one example of those many. he was asked to resign because he could not conquer poverty in the state of colorado or improve the migrant camps or he could not account for forty-nine cents of his two-million-dollar budget.


maybe it was because he succeeded despite the inherited conspiracy from within.


tend your sheep, they understand more of poverty than the o.e.o. sextagon in washington. chicanos must not trade away their charisma for cap forms. chicanos must do their best to relate their meager fundings to the vast movement for total change. they must refuse to become shock absorbers with a tetera in their hands to pacify the angry masses. go, rivera, and help tomás and facundo bake adobes. build instead of leaders inanimate things. they cost less. go and rest. wear well your decorations upon your sincere heart which only wanted to help others but which was as foolish as any one else’s as to how to do it. soon another one will try his hand at fighting poverty and earning his rest. longevity for cap directors is a short one. you please washington and fool the poor or you fool washington and please the poor. the game has only sixty seconds.

go and rest, rivera,


you become a good example of how human the tendency is to kick a man

who is down. chicanos who should be coming strong to your aid whisper low that they are only:

—casual acquaintances rest in antonito, be again a family man.


drink a beer or two. i will not, however, accept your resignation from the movement of chicanos on the go who fight for first-class citizenship, who want to make some rules of their very own as to how to play the silly sixty seconds game. requiem for an ex cap director who came close to being the revolution’s x factor.




No Tengo Papeles

usté dispense, ¿cuál es el nombre désta ciudá? tengo necesidá. no tengo papeles. quiero trabajar. me quiero mejorar. no tengo papeles. el hambre no tiene fronteras ni reconoce ríos. no tengo papeles. estos lugares por donde yo busco chamba no me son desconocidos. es el mismo méjico que fue robado. no tengo papeles. el presidente de aquí me quiere dar amnestía. quisiera que en vez de eso hiciera justicia con los malos sueldos y las malas condiciones de trabajo como yo me gano la vida. no tengo papeles. tengo sed de justicia. no tengo papeles. mis hermanos chicanos me desconocen y me insultan. no me abajan de pinche mojado muerto de hambre. tengo frío. tengo miedo. no tengo papeles. busco por acá


lo que en mi patria no hay por la misma culpa de tanta explotación americana. por tonto que me crean yo entiendo de economía. tenga la razón pero no tengo papeles. me echan a mi la culpa por tanta gente que hay aquí sin trabajo

y porque la economía estadounidense

anda por los suelos. yo no tengo la culpa no tengo papeles. la migra, ah, la migra ese brazo elástico del ranchero ventajoso,

del gobierno convenenciero es el mismo que dejé atrás en méjico. rompe mi cabeza

y me asesina

diciendo que sólo fue un acidente. todos se lo creen. yo tengo la verdad pero no tengo papeles. lo poco que gano

a veces me alcanza

pá mandar un quiotro dólar

a los que dejé atrás

pero no los veo llegar.

tengo una familia tan grande. no tengo papeles. sí, es verdad, la tristeza por estos rumbos

y ese idioma de los perros

es inaguantable


en veces me emborracho


me enamoro,

tengo corazón pero no tengo papeles ni casa tengo. mis patrones en veces me hacen el favor de dejarme dormir en un gallinero. ya llevo mucho tiempo sufriendo. no tengo papeles. nací sin papeles. crecí sin papeles. yo sé quién soy. soy mejicano.

pido trabajo. no pido limosna. hay otros aquí sin papeles.

a ellos nadie los molesta

porque ellos están güeros. otros quesque le andan corriendo al comunismo sí, mi espalda esta mojada pero de sudor. mis huevos también. no tengo papeles. no tengo papeles. no tengo papeles.

Anclas de Desunidad

¡qué casualidad! para hablar de unidad hay que hablar de división primero. este tribuismo antiguo es un ancla en el ombligo no nos deja caminar. yo soy azteca. yo soy tolteca. chichimeca. olmeca. zapoteca. apache. laguna. navajo. pueblo. yaqui. comanche. siño, yo soy un probe indio lepero sin huarache. este regionalismo antiguo es un ancla en el ombligo no nos deja caminar. yo soy sureño. yo soy de la capital. soy del valle. soy de las montañas. yo soy de la costa. yo del midwest. yo soy norteño, casi güero, vaquero y todo ese pedo. yo soy rural. yo soy urbano, ese, estoy sophisticated de a madre. i know where all the movidas are and how to get it on. estas divisions organizacionales son unas anclas fatales no nos dejan caminar. yo soy lulac. yo soy del g.i. forum. yo soy del project ser. yo soy image. umas. masa. c.s.a. cufa. mecha. u.f.w. t.f.w. a.&w.? upward bound. h.e.p. e.o.p. p.p.p. —ahí está el escusado en la otra puerta. estas divisiones políticas son unas anclas críticas no nos dejan caminar.


yo soy republican. yo soy democrat. yo ser del american party. yo soy de la raza unida. —¿cuál de las cuatro? yo voy con wallace. —ora, bruto, si wallace no está corriendo. pos ni yo estoy votando. estas divisiones ideológicas son anclas ilógicas no nos dejan caminar. yo soy comunista. yo soy marxista. yo soy socialista. yo so anarquista. leninista. troikista. zapatista. ¿nudista? nacionalista. tercer mundo. revolucionario. reformista. alambrista. yo soy radical. yo soy un conservador. —Ora, pendejo, ¿qué conservas, la pobreza? estas divisiones físicas son unas anclas tísicas no nos dejan caminar. éste es güero. aquél es prieto. éste es alto. aquél es chapo. éste está flaco y aquél es barrigón

éste es narizón y aquél está molacho. éste es un buen hombre y aquél es un borracho. éste está greñudo y aquél está pelón. éste está más feo que el carbón

y aquél tiene sex appeal.

estas divisiones económicas son unas anclas cómicas no nos dejan caminar.

éste es pobre. aquél es rico. ésta está en welfare

y aquél anda atrás de las estampillas.

éste es middle class. tiene dos carros. —diles la verdad, ni uno de los dos anda éste gana un dólar arriba del poverty guidelines.


éste está en unemployment. —oh, no yo no estar en unemployment. yo ser un consultant en unemployment. estas divisiones hijas de puta son un ancla bruta no nos dejan caminar. yo soy chicano. yo soy mejicano.

yo soy mexican american. yo soy spanish. yo soy mojado. yo soy manito. yo soy pocho. yo soy estudiante. yo soy campesino. soy mariguano. soy tecato. soy bato loco.

y yo soy pinto.

yo ser un program director. —eres un vendido. el vendido fue tu padre. yo soy joven. tú estás viejo. —vieja la luna, güey. yo soy del gay liberation. yo soy del women’s liberation. —ora, vieja chirinolera, póngase a amasar. sí, mis queridos carnales,

aunque tenemos muchas cosas que nos hacen diferentes todos tenemos una cosa en común. todos estamos bien jodidos

y para dejar de estar jodidos hay que estar unidos.


From Frisco to Fresno

pasa, viejo amigo, a platicar conmigo un rato. el tiempo es nuestro y el vino es aún barato.

a poor pale example of a man

beat up on a woman night before.

that muy macho wanted to settle the score and bruised, half-dying, she was left

in the street

to heal herself, to go back to him and love him even more, to run in fear, to implore. come, old friend, let us talk a while.

it is our own time we waste. let’s drink and smile.

they are nearing the impeachment of a despot king who was not satisfied with merely being great,

in the night

he wanted to be supreme. let’s hope they tape the mess up and restore a bit of confidence

in the social shambles of a nation which once had the potential of becoming a second paradise. pasa, amiga/querida, mi casa es tu casa. deja que tiemblen nuestros cuerpos una vez más. esta vez de despedida. let me as i bite gently your lip go on and wish you a safe trip. you go to central america, to nicaragua, you say. you are catching a ride to what you believe to be the expansion and growth of your very soul.

as i said before

buen viaje.


enter, companion of a long time, the champagne is flowing.

i want in a brief toast to tell you you are strong and self-sustaining. drink one more glass and drown your fears. imaginary or real, of dying, of being left alone, of going insane. dear woman of mine, don’t you see that only then you would be in step with the rest of the world which long ago lost its own head? come in, friend, spit out your anger at my face. fermented angry spit can also get us drunk. you’re sore because i made love,

a few times and in a hurry, to your ex wife. is your anger at me because you see me now in the splendor of my shiny dishonesty which has turned me into a full-size mirror in which you see yourself? come in, te he estado esperando,

estás flaca

puro hueso ya sin alma caminando solo con el soplo de algún viento.

muy flaca,

i do not offer you anything to drink.

you do not like tea, coffee or juice

or a lime-cold drink from arctic circle.

i offer you instead my own blood.

suck it out and make me skinny like you.


pero por dios ¡si es el mismo dios que viene a verme! maybe he can explain to me el hormiguero que hay en mi cuerpo. maybe he can tell me in which volcán originated the lava/desire which makes me look at any female standing in front of me as a living target. i’ll just have a glass of milk in which to dunk my last hard on. pasa, pasa tú también, diablo pinche, que la casa de mi alma es bastante grande. aquí tengo un fuerte aguarraz para brindar contigo your last subdivision as hell surely has by now its slums and its suburbias. better yet, this night i will drink alone una leche pálida de un pálido pezón.


The Last Wow

the blue-eyed gypsy is gone. once again i’m all alone. there is no song. there is no poem. gypsies must move on or else they won’t be gypsies long. the last wow, the last ajúah have been said. the drops of dew, sweat and love fell on each other one last time. siamese souls of love cannot be dissected with words without real blood erupting as if invited by a knife. —i want to travel some more,


do some growing up.

i refused, my ears refused,

to listen anymore, to be a witness to the tears of anguish spoiling the beauty of your face

which is by now a permanent fixture in my mind.


i chose instead to listen to the song we call our own and relive those moments of one of our many honeymoons. —tanto tiempo disfrutamos de este amor. nuestras almas se acercaron tanto así que yo guardo tu sabor pero tú llevas también, sabor a mí. the zodiac, the many horoscopes we read each other,


the gemini and the sagittarius, they approved of our love and made such sound and healthy predictions.

the lines in the palm of my hand confirmed the duality of my joy, our joy.


echoed in envious applause our heaven, the find each was to each other. inside a church when we received holy communion together we thanked god for our love/sin. we had by then settled all the major differences which, futuristically speaking, had our meeting and falling in love in the realm of possibilities that happen only on a zillion to one basis. how is it then that now a last wow brings sudden death to our love just as it flowered, challenging tradition and daring to establish itself in the testing grounds of immorality? i sing some more in the silence of my mind trying to escape the sadness of the moment:

—yo no sé si tenga amor la eternidad pero entonces como aquí en tu boca llevarás sabor a mí. the last wow.

the number seven,


what is a wow? you and i already know but does the originator of such a sound centuries ago mind our using his shout of joy brought about by spiritual explosions dispersing sensuously all the feathers in our bodies? wow is our personal no-meaning sound manifesting our happiness. —you are so final. can you leave the door open? —you asked. you added, —gypsies have been known to return. i said to myself, —ghosts do not bother with doors. those who are already inside need no doors to come in. the last wow is a mortal blow which somehow, as you already know, takes love/life away. the last wow is the last everything. the blue-eyed gypsy is gone. once again i’m all alone. there is no song. there is no poem. gypsies must move on or else they won’t be gypsies long.

—pasarán más de mil años, muchos más



among other things you married a pair of wings. do not clip them. climb on and fly. while dreams are known the world over, of course, you married the source. don’t try to understand him. the task is big. who knows, the reward may not be worth the effort.

you married someone who’d much rather understand suffering than console. one who will ignore pain and tears his and others’. one who behaves like an ostrich at the sight of trouble but who will readily sacrifice all or yield nothing, one whose sense of value is either ignoring truth or warped realism. one whose religion is as hollow


as a plaster statue or as solid as

the touch

or morning dew upon the green. you married

a paper sack

with lots of holes containing faith. what’s more

you married someone who flatly refuses to sit in the back. one who dreams so high one who feels at home in the simple darkness of nobodyness. the one you married worships the brightness of the mind and will not worry

if the house

burns down tomorrow or the soul forever. one whose insanity may have its roots in loneliness. yes, the one who is your mate will die early and live late. in his nothingness you can pan the gold dust of being great. while he may not agree with you or compliment you or feel sorry for you he will do more.

he will understand.


while he will never be a father

or a husband he will fill those roles by merely being himself. to say you have him, to say you found him, to say he is yours will only please your ears because if it were that he would belong to you or to anyone else he would be lost. to share your life with a puzzle was your “i do” his

(and this is your only real satisfaction) has lasting value galore for his love is a never empty store.

La Barraca

opening night, the beer isn’t cold yet.

november twelve


when four very determined chicanos go on business together and open a bar in the middle of the texas desert near mission

it can be taken as a declaration

of independence.

a vintage jukebox

i bet we’ll soon forget.

blasts vintage chicano rancheras y corridos.

the first customers, lalo, lucas, lupe y rené los dueños: pablo rubén y samuel tend bar and drink away the profits.

marcos lópez, sí señor, joins the group and others come in to the opening occasion. —set up the first round. —pongan las otras, yo las pago. the fourth owner of the “establishment” is away in philadelphia. he is narciso alemán.

i receive two unexpected compliments:

—i was looking forward to meeting you.

i remember many lines from your poems.— words paying for words. sincerely said, i’m sure.

i wish them suerte en su empresa

and toast away their economic venture. more than a cantina

it is a cuartel

para los chicanos de acción que piden revolución.


What Is Life?

hilda, bert and roberto complied in sharing with me a sábado de gloria which had died only a couple of hours before. we kept vigil on the last day of our ten-day fast. we tossed and turned trying to find the soft side of the hard floor where we laid. we had plenty of conversation, light and wise, we spoke of many things. we also listened to portions of the album, jesus christ, superstar. just as we all were getting pretty sleepy roberto posed the question, —what is life? he repeated it, afraid that i had missed it, —what is life? then the most beautiful thing happened. just as i tried a series of abelardistic (after me, not the other abelard) attempts at what at 2 a.m.

of easter 1972 could be considered damn well satisfying answers, i began to hear heavy snoring. my three friends had gone to sleep and could care less for my brilliant answer to such a philosophical question. the beautiful thing being that they did not wait for the answer. not waiting for the answer only proves trying to define life is hard. it won’t stand still. it moves.



to scunner and not to hate, to scupper and keep the taste, to hide under the thick scurf of scurrile life that yearning to scurry itself leaps out and is able to see its own scut, obsolete as old scutage. scutched, then, my mountainous love with the scutcheon of no hope my nonhoping scute hides me. pour, fate, then, into my scuttle so that i can scuttle away my love. i still have faith as scutum tho time’s scythe cuts away my autumn.


De Corpus a San Antonio

it is rather strange that in the english language no word rhymes with orange. in spanish no word rhymes with naranja? it’s just as well. i did not mean to rhyme it with anything anyway. if i did

i would probably invent a word myself, coin one myself. “florange” as an example. florange would be my word for the flower of the orange, for the orange blossom. what good is my poetic license if i never get to use it?

because english is my second language the endings of english words

keep throwing me off

i rhyme love with job and orange would rhyme with change or ranch or even range. they all sound the same to my chicano ear. despite the “b” i got in my phonetics class when i was making speech my minor back in my college days english sounds are foreign. what fuss, huh? fiddling around with the intricacies of communications, poetic and otherwise,

which, after all, don’t suffice worth a shit

to make soul to soul communication

way off.



The I.A.

hunger is the modus operandus. exploitation is de facto to all of us to use apropo terminology.

if the honorable chairman of these hearings

yields the floor to a chicano for a minute i will elaborate on what appears to me to be a well-plotted cons-pi-ra-cy:

—cheap labor to maximize the margin of profits.

a nation unable to house and feed its citizens.

the seed in us to abuse the unprotected weak. an uncaring, unconcerned, apathetic public.

a legislative body burdened by many priorities. put all these elements together and you have eight million undocumented workers all around you. they do make a nice size scapegoat for all the economic woes facing our nation. why, what can be more unamerican than to have the highest rate of unemployment and play deaf and blind to these “illegal aliens”? let me propose some solutions to the problem:

—open up the borders. occupy mexico. send gabachos to look for work in mexico. declare all i.a.s. a communist threat. make it all an international harvest game. marry them off to every available u.s. dame.


Alternative Ed

one battleground where the front continues to swallow up chicanos like a pinchi cunt is the establishing of our own schools, no matter, be they preschool or postgraduate. the blessings of accreditation are only dispensed by an anglo pope. there is really no hope. u.c.l.i. jacinto treviño, tlatelolco, colegio de la tierra, juárez lincoln, d.q.u , colegio césar chávez,



the funds with which we must perform miracles continue to be such, really not too much to even buy pencils or toilet paper. pero le seguimos dando gas. un día lagañozo en fresno under the roof of a condemned building unos cuantos chicanos que son como las baterías del sears que se llaman diehard se juntaron to continue their dream of diplomas con el shape de tortillas, de no tener que comprar nuestra educación de rodillas ni con estampillas lo nuestro es sueño y es también trabajo, siguen siendo así mientras seamos los de abajo.


De Harlingen a Corpus

descendants of príncipes aztecas in south tejas, sensitive to la raza’s historic, painful, constant quejas, plan a pyramid to the sun, la pirámide del sol. where they can offer sacrifice again a los dioses. there, they will sacrifice ignorance, hunger, racism, oppression and disease.

it will be a place where our own history

will be displayed in bright hues upon its murals. there our own chicano college will be housed. thousands of chicanos can come to share, to hope, to build, together at one time.

it is sad we must wind up pricing

such a needed monument, the symbol of our own monumental despair,

must be measured and tagged in dollars and in cents.

seven million dollars

a projected date of five years

qué sueño, ¿verdad, carnales? mayas and aztecas had such dreams. now real pyramids still stand where they once dreamed. they built at even greater sacrifice

a legend to leave us for posterity in piedra bruta. is our mission less important than theirs? that pyramid will stand on, and look accusingly, tierras que nos robaron, the same tierras our tatarabuelos desraizaron.

more or less


The Willing and Unwilling Victims

how much coitus has been accrued, how the migrant is being screwed

is of the newest in sex through the rear, through the mouth, through the underarms so many hard ons, (periodic reporting forms

money spent

the migrant is developing holes all over his body for sadistic growers

and sugar companies, senile crewleaders, pimping field men worse than whores on overtime,

laws are being passed over him, under him, around him and through him, ah, but that’s not all

a machine is also after him thinking his brown ass is a potato

it wants to pick it.

death seems the only escape and so he’ll die in texas, somewhere in elsa, somewhere in falfurrias, but even death won’t come before more misery is inherited, behind one more dollar merited.

kids sick





you look back for both of us. i can’t. my eyes are clouded with a tender sentiment.

i want to remember highlights of

a ceremony that fell short of our true love.

. and yet, sixteen years later i see

by my side, my woman, the other part of me.

. and i’m filled again with gratitude.

i show the falling snow my thankful attitude.

let us talk about the score instead of looking back and rejoice for things ahead.

we are still together. that does count. seven children add up to quite an amount.

don’t wish to recall happy events. tears and pains are our marriage’s lasting true cements.

i am not one to measure love and joy

in terms of years. they are things time cannot destroy.


Those Temporary Labor Camp Blues

to hear growers through their organization representatives sing, oops, i mean testify before osha, without guitar or violin, the sadness of their song brings sudden tears.

—the economics of the whole thing —they begin, —we already have adequate codes. uh? local and state, that is. we do not need the feds. migrants are not forced to live in those camps. they can live elsewhere if they want to. housing does not come with the job. why, if it becomes economically unfeasible we will shut down the camps. you know that all of this is forcing us to bring about mechanization that much sooner.

if standards are not enforced it really doesn’t matter which are applied.

—the size of the room is adequate.

the flies are adequate. the nonexistent toilets are adequate. the lack of privacy is adequate. but who defines “adequate”? where, pray tell, are the affected parties? they are in the fields, working, of course. they are not in the forum room of the eugene hotel in eugene, oregon, that’s for sure.

—i grew up in a place close to a barn and look at me, i am quite healthy.


hotels do not want the migrants because they tear up the place. says the wife of a grower. more tears, my lord. for god’s sake, change the damn attitudes and screw the regulations for temporary labor camp violations.


De Macalitos a Harlingen

la cábula is one of our best chicano ways of maintaining our sanity among so many strays.

lupe rivera del valle de tejas must be, without a doubt, el rey de la cábula. cuenta el lupe about the one time he and other carnales were returning from a meeting in denver, by plane, of course, eran unos cinco batos


pesados, heavy, you know.

in order to catch the plane they had missed their lunch. traían un hambre canija del cien. fortunately they were told they would be served

on board

con interruptions del buen rubén saenz, que no se queda muy atrás pá esto de la cábula, contar cracas, echar mosca, inventar mamadas the first thing they saw on their food trays was a huge salad bowl con su respective dressing de thousand islands. le entraron duro a la ensalada. all of the sudden uno de ellos para de comer y les dice, —this is no union lettuce, esos. le contestó el otro con sus bigotes llenos de dressing, —vamos a 31,000 feet up you want to stage a walkout? just eat and shut up.

sigue contando el lupe


The Poor Have Now a Voice: Stereophonic at That

the thermometer of tolerance broke down as soon as the nightgown was removed from lady poverty by opportunity. the aspirations of the poor, thank god, kennedy, johnson, nixon or carter, have now been lifted. new legislation and meager appropriations, i’m afraid, are not going to be enough or come in time to catch the skinny malnutritioned bunch who having tasted the filet mignon of our society now want dessert.


but cash so they can give the poor underpaid waitress a fat tip. screw self-help housing. we (it is now profitable and convenient for us to associate ourselves with the poor) want to hire our own draftsman, contractor and landscaper. we are, of course, only talking of our winter resorts for we still migrate in the summers to pick crops of sorts.

not only dessert


The Group

all the efforts we now make, our mini experiments integrating, will shake the birth pains loose for a new era. there is a new set of freedoms waiting, impossible perhaps in years past, highly possible in the here and now. these freedoms, these sacred mushroom visions

call for us to live

to be human,

to love